As the teacher says niao, a group of 40 students breaks into peals of laughter at the sound of the unfamiliar word. The teacher repeats the word, which means bird in Mandarin and writes it. The students then repeat the word in a chorus and try to imitate the written word.
At a calligraphy class at the Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar (TISVV), Wei Ding, a teacher from the Jinyuan Senior High School (JSHS) in Shanghai is conducting a calligraphy class with the students of TISVV in a virtual classroom.
Lat week, the Central Board of Secondary Education announced the introduction of Mandarin language in its curriculum for Class 6 from April 2011. But long before this step of the Board, the students of TSIVV were already learning Chinese calligraphy and Mandarin.
In a unique cultural exchange initiative between students of TSIVV and JSHS in Shanghai, students of the two schools have been interacting through e-classrooms since September 2009. While students of TISVV teach their Chinese counterparts yoga, their Indian friends are taught calligraphy and pronunciation of Mandarin words once a week.
"I used to think that yoga is an Indian sport," said Yang Yuewen, a Class 11 student of JSHS in halting English.
The fact that Chinese students do not understand English well and often turn to a translator for communication does not really hamper their spirit to learn.
Ding, who teaches calligraphy to the students of TISVV is equally excited and says, "This is the first time I am teaching foreign students; it's an amazing experience."
Jatin Arora, a Class 7 student of TISVV said, "Initially, we were taught the basic strokes and then we learnt to write a whole word. We have already learnt numericals from 1 to 10 and also a few words including, India which is pronounced as yin dù," said
Madhulika Sen, principal, TISVV said, "This kind of an initiative transcends the boundaries through art and culture. Sharing each other's culture will help us learn and know more."